“Skimming” is when a criminal places an electronic device on an ATM, gas pump or other card machine that scoops information from a bank card’s magnetic strip whenever a customer uses the machine.
How skimming works
The devices planted on the machines are usually undetectable by users—the makers of this equipment have become very adept at creating them, often from plastic or plaster, so that they blend right into the ATM’s front. The specific device used is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory-installed card reader. Customers insert their card into the phony reader, and their account info is swiped and stored on a small attached laptop or cell phone or sent wirelessly to the criminals waiting nearby.
How to avoid being skimmed
- Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.
- When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.
- If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).
- Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas…they are a popular target of skimmers.
- If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.
- Always take card sales receipts or ATM transaction slips. Never toss them carelessly away near the sales or ATM terminal or leave them dangling from a receipt printer.
- Don’t use the machine if anything looks suspicious. It’s better to be safe than sorry.